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Shaler man held in 1980 slaying

| Thursday, May 31, 2012, 11:03 p.m.
Patrick David Salmon at age 21.
Patrick David Salmon at age 21.
Patrick David Salmon, 53.
Patrick David Salmon, 53.

Patrick David Salmon was a reckless young man who apparently turned his life around, growing into a good neighbor and devoted grandfather.

But police say his misspent youth caught up with him last month when he was arrested at his home in Shaler and charged with shooting and killing a teenager during a home invasion more than 30 years ago in California.

Salmon, 53, is charged with the May 21, 1980, slaying of Joaquin Mansion, 16, Shaler police Chief Bryan Kelly said on Thursday.

Two 16-year-old co-conspirators who were arrested and convicted in the months after the crime spent several years in juvenile custody before being released and cooperating with investigators, said Santa Monica police Detective Larry Nicols, who spearheaded the cold case investigation.

Salmon was unaware that he was under suspicion until Nicols and Shaler police showed up at his home on the evening of May 17 and arrested him.

He remains in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting an extradition hearing scheduled June 18.

Nicols said he does not know why Salmon, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, was in Santa Monica in 1980.

At the time, Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis said, Salmon was a 21-year-old "transient, known to acquaintances only by a nickname."

Nicols said detectives believe Salmon and the others were mistaken or misled when they went to a house looking for drugs and money.

"We believe they were misinformed. (Mansion), who was absolutely innocent, was hanging out in the apartment with friends, talking, watching TV," Nicols said.

Salmon's companions waited in the car when Salmon burst into the home alone and demanded money and drugs, the detective said.

He said Mansion and his friends "didn't give him anything because they didn't have anything."

Nicols said he believes Salmon picked Mansion at random and shot him once in the head before fleeing.

Salmon's name surfaced during the initial investigation, but police couldn't find him or make positive identification.

Nicols, using modern technology and law enforcement databases, found that Salmon was booked for aggressive panhandling in Santa Barbara in 1984 and left a trail of petty crimes in Ohio and Florida. State court records show that Salmon was arrested three times in Allegheny County between 1978 and 1989, once spending at least six months in jail for theft.

Salmon and his wife have lived quiet lives in Shaler for several years, Kelly said.

"We never had him on our radar. We never had any issues with him."

Nicols said Salmon told him he worked as a surveyor until he got hurt and began collecting disability payments.

"He was very friendly, always helping you do anything if he could," said Marie Stromoski, who shares a duplex with the Salmons.

"To me, he was a sweet, wonderful guy," she said. "He was wonderful with his grandchildren, always singing old songs to them."

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